Sheriff candidate responds to agency’s virus response

News
Towns County Sheriff Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – In response to a report on a Tuesday meeting at the Towns County Courthouse called to bring together local leaders at the helm of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, sheriff candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn took aim at the Towns County Sheriff’s Office for not attending the relevant conference.

“Imagine that, a National and State declared health state of emergency and the Towns County Sheriff’s Office does not believe it’s important to attend a vital county Emergency Management briefing on the COVID-19 virus,” Osborn said in part on his campaign page. “There are two candidates for the Office of Sheriff that are employed at the Sheriff’s Office, why did they not attend?”

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, along with the two city mayors and emergency officials from Towns County EMA, EMS, Fire and Rescue, Hiawassee Police Department, and Young Harris Police Department attended the briefing, contributing input on the response measures taking form. Hiawassee Police Chief Paul Smith publicly noted the absence of the sheriff’s office while explaining what is known on their procedures, and how the city department is adapting to the virus.

Towns County COVID 19

COVID-19 response meeting at the Towns County Courthouse.

The conference, called by the commissioner, was intentionally held in the Towns County courtroom to provide social distancing between attendees.

FYN attempted to contact Towns County Chief Deputy Terry Conner, who was aware of the meeting, on Tuesday afternoon for an explanation as to why Sheriff Chris Clinton or his deputies did not represent the department. Conner replied late Wednesday afternoon, stating that the department would issue a press release on the Towns County Detention Center’s amended daily operations plan. After multiple attempts to learn why the county agency did not attend the meeting, Conner stated that the department was following health advice to avoid group gatherings.

Sheriff candidate Jim Couch, a captain with the sheriff’s office, redirected FYN to his “supervisor” on Tuesday afternoon via text. Challenger and Deputy Lisa Joseph did not respond to a request for comment.

FYN has reported Towns County Sheriff’s Office’s lack of involvement with local emergency agencies in the past,  most notably in connection with school safety. While county and city agencies attending the briefing exchanged plans to confront the potential arrival of COVID-19, providing information for the press to disseminate to the public, the sheriff’s office’s level of involvement remains unclear.

 

Sheriff’s candidate strives for ‘open dialogue’ with citizens

Election, News
Daren Bear Osborn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A clear line of communication between law enforcement officers and the citizens that they serve is an integral component of effective policing, and it is a topic that Towns County sheriff’s candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn chose to publicly address Feb. 11.

“I believe that the best way to protect our citizens is to be informed about current issues, problems, and public safety needs in our county,” Osborn stated. “I believe that a strong partnership between law enforcement and local citizens through community policing and information sharing will serve our county well. Many problems can easily be solved through clear communication, open dialogue, and complete transparency. I believe a strong sheriff can lead and serve humanely and compassionately without adversity. A sheriff’s ability to enforce the law without conflict or aggression speaks to his character.”

According to FYN’s research, the U.S. Department of Justice agrees. “Transparency is essential to positive police-community relationships,” the national agency explained. “Strong relationships of mutual trust between police agencies and the communities they serve are critical to maintaining public safety and effective policing. Police officials rely on the cooperation of community members to provide information about crime in their neighborhoods, and to work with the police to devise solutions to crime and disorder problems. Similarly, community members’ willingness to trust the police depends on whether they believe that police actions reflect community values and incorporate the principles of procedural justice and legitimacy.”

Osborn, an active member in the Towns County community long before election season officially began, has spent a vast amount of time practicing what he preached in the form of public outreach. The sheriff’s candidate has met one-on-one with countless residents thus far, gaining a deeper insight into citizens’ concerns.

Osborn said, as sheriff, he will continue encouraging Towns County citizens to bring problems to the attention of law enforcement. “Together, we can accomplish all our goals in making Towns County a safe, pleasant, and respected county in which to live,” Osborn concluded.

Continue to follow FYN for local, state, and national campaign coverage as the May 19 primary election approaches.

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Couch’s history surfaces as sheriff’s election heats up

Election, News
Jim Couch - Towns County sheriff electionnews

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – As qualification for the Towns County sheriff’s election approaches, FYN received information on the law enforcement career of Jim Couch, a contender for Office of Sheriff, from separate opponents.

A received document contained a press release from Georgia State Patrol (GSP) Commander Capt. Keith Canup concerning an alleged mishandling of the 2015 Southern Worthersee (SoWo) car rally by former Helen Police Chief Couch. Canup stated that there was “no traffic plan in place, there was no plan to deal with the large crowds, nor was there a contingency plan to deal with civil disorder” despite the city previously hosting the popular event.

According to media coverage, over 2,800 people were “out of control,” breaking vehicle windows and attempting to overturn a rollback tow truck, while hurling rocks and bottles at officers, and committing acts of vandalism. Approximately 28,000 participants were reported as present at the rally.

“Chief Couch was told upfront that the role of GSP would be to make sure the mayhem did not spill out into the surrounding county and the Troopers would not actively patrol the town, or police his streets,” Capt. Canup said, in part, in the press release. “Our goal was to prevent the mountainous roads outside Helen from becoming race tracks, to prevent reckless conduct in general, and to apprehend drunk drivers. I felt that a lawless environment was created and allowed to exist for the sake of tourism. Had the SOWO crowd descended upon Helen uninvited GSP would have gladly taken the lead on maintaining order, but that was simply not the case…

“Had the Georgia State Patrol entered the town we could not have stood idly by and condoned the illegal and reckless activities that were being encouraged without taking enforcement action. We certainly would not have signed off on closing a state highway without the existence of an emergency circumstance warranting such action. I understand the state route was closed by Chief Couch for the purpose of allowing the SOWO cars to do burnouts. State Troopers aren’t wired to allow the law to be broken a little bit. You can’t have the presence of Troopers absence the presence of enforcement. They are one in the same.”

Click to read the full statement from Georgia State Patrol

FYN provided Couch, who hired a Gainesville public relations firm to manage his 2020 sheriff’s campaign, an opportunity to respond to the state law enforcement agency’s assessment of the situation.

“As a law enforcement professional for more than 40 years, my first and foremost priority has always been the safety of the residents of the communities I serve as well as the officers who work with me, whom I have dedicated my life to protecting,” Couch’s statement reads in full. “As anyone in this profession may understand, there are moments when one must calmly and rationally assess a situation and do what is best for the safety of all involved parties in order to keep the peace.

Jim Couch - Towns County sheriff electionnews

Jim Couch (center) with retiring Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton (left) and retiring White County Sheriff Neal Walden at Couch’s Jan. 25 campaign meet-&-greet.

“During my time as the Chief of Police in Helen, there was an occurrence that required me to put my experience in law enforcement to use. Following the 2015 Southern Worthersee event, which is a large annual gathering of car enthusiasts, some number of those gathered became unruly as the night progressed, eventually forcing one road to be closed due to their presence. I assessed the surroundings and the individuals involved and took what I believed to be the best and safest avenue for all involved by making my request for them to disperse and allowing those gathered a short time to comply with this request. As a peace officer, I believed then and still believe that it was my duty to obtain order and minimize any possibility of damage or violence toward businesses, residences or individuals in Helen.

“I believe it takes a calm and level head to maintain peace during a situation of rising tension, and I do not doubt that I did what was right in that situation at the time. I regret any miscommunication that resulted in unwarranted criticism of GSP’s role or the actions of its Troopers. I appreciate all the law enforcement officers and agencies that worked together that night to ensure this situation was handled in a way that best protected our community, its residents and those gathered. It has been and continues to be my privilege to be in a career of service, and I look forward to serving Towns County today and in the days and years to come.”

Participants described the SoWo event – which was prohibited from returning to Helen by city leaders – as chaotic and riotous. “It was a madhouse when we were there during the day,” an attendee wrote on social media shortly after the event. “I am glad we weren’t there at night.”

Couch, who currently serves as a captain with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, resigned from his position as Helen’s police chief two months after the rally took place.

 

Sheriff candidate says improved patrol is needed

Election, News
Kenneth Ode Henderson

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Young Harris Police Chief Kenneth “Ode” Henderson, a contender for Towns County sheriff, spoke with the Mountain Movers and Shakers, Friday, Jan. 31. at Sundance Grill. Henderson has served as a law enforcement officer for 35 years, currently serving as chief of police at Young Harris College and as an officer with the City of McCaysville.

Henderson touched on several issues during the morning meeting, which was brimming to near-capacity with constituents.

“The State of Georgia says that I need 20 hours of training a year to keep my certification,” Henderson began. “I don’t think that’s enough. I think our officers need more training. I think nothing less than 40 (hours), if not more. I think that our officers need more training.” Henderson said that a variety of resources, as well as low-to-no cost training, is available to law enforcement officers through the State.

“Drugs will be my number one priority. All crime is a priority, but drugs are something we’ve got to address,” the Young Harris police chief stated, drawing applause from the crowd. Henderson added that an in-house drug agent is needed within the department.

Henderson fielded several questions from the Mountain Movers and Shakers, including one from Shirley Clinton, the mother of and executive secretary to retiring Sheriff Chris Clinton. “I think this is the best sheriff’s office we’ve ever had, so what would you do to improve on what’s already there, and where would you get the funds to do it?” Clinton asked the candidate.

Jim Couch - sheriff's election

Towns County Sheriff’s Office Executive Secretary Shirley Clinton with Road Patrol Captain Jim Couch, a candidate for sheriff.

“Well, I think we have to expand on that,” Henderson responded. “I think we have a good sheriff’s department, and like I said, I’m not here to point fingers at anybody, but I think as far as expanding on that, we have to also keep in mind our budget. We’ve got to stay within that budget, and I think that working with our commissioner, we keep within our budget, and you know, we move along, making sure we’re getting all the professional training that we can get, and keeping our guys as best as we can with training,”

Henderson emphasized the importance of cooperating with outside law enforcement agencies and working toward involvement with the community. The sheriff’s contender said that he plans to implement a cadet program for youth if elected. More so, Henderson included that he would compile a list of elderly residents to ensure their well-being by checking on them daily. “If we call and you don’t answer, we’re going to be up there to see why you didn’t answer,” Henderson assured.

Henderson raised the topic of patrol duties within the sheriff’s office.

“I’ve been out on the trail and talking to people. I’ve actually had people tell me that they have not seen a law car in their community in a year. I’ve had several people tell me that on Gumlog, that they have not seen a car, a law enforcement car in their area in a year. That’s not going to happen, guys,” Henderson said, adding that he will assign patrol units to communities. “And about one day a month, I’m going to try to go out and talk to the citizens and the people and say. ‘Hey, you seeing law cars? If not, it’s gonna change.’ That’s our job. It’s not our job to ride Hiawassee to Young Harris and back again, ok? That’s not doing the job.”

Henderson added that the patrol vehicles would be altered to black and white to increase visibility.

Henderson concluded by assuring the citizens that he supports the Second Amendment. “I will stand with the people of Towns County against anybody that would attempt to take your rights to the Second Amendment away,” the candidate vowed. “I would never, never stand with anybody or law that would go against your Second Amendment.”

Henderson added that if elected, he will strive to make Towns County Sheriff’s Office the best in Georgia. “I will not let you down. I will do the job, and I will do it well, and we will once again have a good sheriff’s department that’s respected.”

Due to time constraints, Mountain Movers and Shakers announced that Henderson would be invited to deliver a future address. Towns County sheriff’s candidates Daren “Bear” Osborn, who spoke at last week’s session, and Jim Couch attended the meeting.

 

Sheriff’s wife blames victim’s brother for fatal crash

News
Crystal Clinton - Towns County sheriff's wife

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – The death of Terry Silvers, a Hiawassee resident who was killed in a fatal accident early last year, appears fresh in the minds of many Towns County citizens as the 2020 sheriff’s campaign cycle advances. Mark Silvers, the brother of the famed victim, responded to an announcement of Cpl. Lisa Joseph‘s bid for sheriff, connecting the candidate to her husband, Cpl. Greg Joseph, the Towns County deputy who drew widespread media attention due to his involvement, or lack thereof, in Silvers’ tragic death.

The deadly crash, which many believe could have been prevented by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, left a 911 caller who witnessed the accident emotionally scarred, and a grandmother and grandchild injured.

Click for Terry Silvers’ archives

In response to Mark Silvers’ disapproval of Deputy Lisa Joseph’s candidacy, Crystal Clinton – the wife of retiring Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton – lashed out on FYN’s social media, holding the victim’s grieving brother accountable for Terry Silvers’ demise. “Why didn’t you stop him? YOU are the person responsible for his death,” the sheriff’s wife emphasized. Members of the victim’s family, as well as others, reacted with shock to the elected official wife’s callous remark, telling FYN that the comment caused anguish.

Ms. Clinton caused a similar reaction from Silvers’ family and friends in November, changing her social media profile image to a photograph of the victim, adding that it was meant for those so “concerned.”

Terry Silvers

The sheriff’s wife changed her profile picture to that of Terry Silvers, causing the victim’s family what they described as further grief.

Furthermore, Ms. Clinton referenced a live interview conducted by FYN with Mark Silvers shortly after his brother’s death. During the interview, Silvers stated that while he knew that his brother was in no condition to drive on the evening of his death, and advised him not to leave the residence, his now-deceased brother was defiant. “I figured if I called the law on him, they’d let him go again,” Silvers told FYN last spring, referencing multiple occasions that the sheriff’s office had released his drug-addicted sibling without charges.

Click to hear interview with Mark Silvers

This is not the first time that Sheriff Clinton’s wife has made headlines, however, with Ms. Clinton falsely accusing an appointed official of being a convicted felon last fall, along with defamatory allegations fired at a contender in the sheriff’s race.

Click for Crystal Clinton archive

Furthermore, numerous individuals – some of whom served as officers under Sheriff Clinton’s leadership – have questioned the agenda of two Towns County sheriff deputies who have recently announced candidacy for Office of Sheriff in the 2020 election. While both candidates have received support, others believe that their bid may be an extension of the retiring sheriff’s ruffled reign, with Ms. Clinton’s recent outburst seemingly solidifying the concept in their minds.

On Jan. 13, FYN requested an interview with Towns County Capt. Jim Couch, who announced his bid for sheriff last week. The sheriff’s candidate declined, stating that he did not want to “get in the middle” of unrelated controversy surrounding the highly-contested sheriff’s race at this time. Towns County Cpl. Lisa Joseph has not responded to FYN’s invitation to interview.

Sheriff’s candidate Linda Curtis expressed disapproval over the handling of the Silvers’ case by the agency during a Jan. 7 conversation with FYN, recalling that the Towns County Sheriff’s Office did not accept responsibility for their role in the incident nor alter its policies thereafter. Curtis added that Heather Cassidy Segars – the 911 caller who faced an online attack from Ms. Clinton following the notorious 2019 accident – should be “commended” for her heroic attempt to prevent the fatal collision.

 

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Fifth candidate enters Towns County sheriff’s race

Election, News
Lisa Joseph

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Lisa Joseph, a deputy with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, announced Jan. 12 that she plans to seek Office of Sheriff in this year’s election. Corporal Joseph announced the launch of her campaign on her social media page Sunday night, directing the public to a website for the following information.

“As a law enforcement professional, with a strong background in criminal justice, I am honored to introduce myself as a candidate for the office of Sheriff – Towns County. Living and working in this great community for the past five years has truly been a blessing for our family and I am looking forward to the opportunity to bring about positive change as your Sheriff. My professional experience, training and education have prepared me for this important position. My professional career began as an educator in the Cobb and Cherokee County School Districts. While working as a Special Education teacher, I pursued and completed two graduate degree programs, earning a Master of Education and a Master of Criminal Justice.  My interest and passion for community protection and service, led me to leave education and enter the law enforcement profession.

“My Career journey has provided me the opportunity to develop a solid foundation and gain valuable insight and leadership skills having served in a wide range of law enforcement roles in the state of Georgia to include:

Certified Dispatcher – Cherokee County

Detention Officer – Fannin County

Sergeant/State Certified Peace Officer – Fannin County

Road Deputy – Towns County

Shift Supervisor/Corporal – Towns County

“Serving the citizens of Towns County in my current position as a Corporal/Shift Supervisor has given me first-hand knowledge of the issues facing our community.  Whether it is combating drugs, decreasing the crime rate or implementing animal control services, I am committed to communicating and working tirelessly with all branches of the county government to create a successful and positive environment for growth through our vision of honesty, integrity, and moral values.  I would be honored to further serve this county in which I am deeply committed.  I look forward to visiting with familiar faces, as well as the new faces that I will meet along this journey.”

Joseph listed her hometown as Hinesville, Georgia, on her social media page. Joseph serves on the Towns County Sheriff’s Office with husband Corporal Greg Joseph.

 

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Community responds to sheriff candidate’s ‘trash’ talk

News
Towns County Sheriff Election

UPDATED

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Response from the local community grew heated in the days following the publication of an interview with Towns County sheriff’s candidate Linda Curtis, a retired Florida law enforcement officer who relocated to the region nearly a decade ago. Many Towns County residents reacted on social media, expressing contempt for the contender’s verbiage – “taking the trash out” – in referencing arrests on area drug charges. Others took equal offense to Curtis’s attack on fellow candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn, a lifelong resident of Towns County, comparing the 33-year law enforcement officer to a “monkey.”

Click to read Sheriff’s candidate hopes to ‘move agency into tomorrow’

“I don’t know you, but statements like this are stigmatizing and keep people that are lost in addiction from reaching out,” Stacie Ledford, President of Rock Bottom Recovery, responded in part. “Addiction is not a moral issue. Maybe you should make your platform one that promotes helping those fighting the battle instead of seeing them as trash. I am in recovery myself and was not and will never be trash. I would not vote for you as you would definitely discriminate against people with substance use disorders. And I would think you running as sheriff, you would want to help everyone.”

Ledford – who founded the inmate, addiction program in neighboring Clay County – stated that she previously discussed implementing a drug intervention program in Towns County per interest from candidate Osborn.

“There is not one person in this town that deserves to be called trash,” Resident Tammy Bradshaw replied online to Curtis. “You talked about lots of other things we need to fix but didn’t give any examples except for calling someone a monkey and making fun of body types…The problem with us ‘locals’ is not that we don’t want change. Our problem is being too trustworthy to new people that have their own agenda of change. Change to take over and change our town into the next crime-ridden, overpopulated, ignoring our culture and traditions all while putting a smile on their face and pretending to be doing their job, when in reality behind the scenes they are tearing down and destroying our way of life, our values. So, therefore, we tend to stick with the people we know or grew up with because even if they didn’t make any change, our values and traditions were left intact. There are certain things I will fight to never see change because it’s what makes this town so special. And I refuse to bow down to those who get offended because the majority of this town does not support whatever they are pushing.”

Sheriff’s candidate Daren Osborn informed that he intends to issue a social media statement, telling FYN that he is disappointed that the campaign cycle launched in a less-than-positive fashion. “I consider everyone a human being,” Osborn said in response to the controversy. “Some have issues that have taken control of their lives. As sheriff, I will be implementing programs to help these people, and I don’t consider them someone you throw away.”

Candidate Curtis, who voiced initial approval of FYN’s interview coverage, was “tagged” on social media by both Ledford and Bradshaw, but had not responded to concerns as of the afternoon of Jan. 11.

UPDATE: Both Curtis and Osborn issued responses on their Facebook pages following this publication.

 

Capt. Jim Couch announces bid for Towns County Sheriff

Election, Press Release
Jim Couch - Towns County

PRESS RELEASE

HIAWASSEE, Ga.— Building upon an entire career of public service as a law enforcement leader, Jim Couch is pleased to announce his candidacy for Office of Sheriff of Towns County.

Currently a captain with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, Couch brings 41 years of wide-ranging law enforcement experience, including in large metro departments as well as small and medium communities.

“It has been an honor for me to serve the people of Towns County,” Couch said. “I feel that my years of experience uniquely qualify me to lead the Towns County Sheriff’s Office into the next decade. I am confident that my knowledge and training will allow me to structure and prepare the agency to manage the growth that is inevitable in this area.”

Towns County’s primary election is May 19 with the General election set for November 3.

Couch will run as a Republican. Couch began his law enforcement career in 1978 as a dispatcher with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. In the early years of his career, after graduating from North Central Georgia Law Enforcement Academy, he worked for several metro Atlanta departments including M.A.R.T.A Police Department, Cobb County and Marietta Police Departments, and Douglasville and Powder Springs Police Departments.

He and his family have been North Georgia residents since 1996, when he accepted a position with the White County Sheriff’s Office under the leadership of Sheriff Neal Walden. Prior to that he was employed with the Fulton County Marshal’s Department as a Deputy Marshal/Sergeant. He also served with the Georgia Army National Guard from 1986-1994 and was called to active duty in 1990-1991 during Desert Shield/Storm. Couch received an Honorable Discharge in 1994.

While at the White County Sheriff’s Office, he was named Captain/Patrol Division Commander before accepting the position of Police Chief with the City of Helen in 2012. In 2015, Couch accepted a position with the Towns County Sheriff’s Office where he serves as Captain over Field Operations under the leadership of Sheriff Chris Clinton.

“My wife Julie and I are proud to call Towns County home,” Couch said. “We are deeply invested in this area, and I understand how important the bonds of a community can be for families. As we now look at our adult children raising their own kids, I want to make sure I do all I can to help build safer, healthier communities for the people of Towns County.”

Click to read: Couch’s history surfaces as sheriff’s election heats up

 

 

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Sheriff’s candidate hopes to ‘move agency into tomorrow’

Election, News
Linda Curtis - Towns County sheriffs election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN sat down with Linda J. Curtis, candidate for Towns County sheriff, Jan. 7, to disseminate the retired law enforcement officer’s plans if elected to office in November. Curtis served a total of 17 years as a police officer in Florida prior to relocating to Towns County. Curtis intends to run on the Republican Party ticket, stating that she has been a Republican for the past 35 years.

“The first thing that I want to do is move this agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said. “You know that old cliche, ‘if you keep on doing what you’ve always done, you’ll keep on keeping what you’ve always gotten?’ It seems like every candidate that runs, runs on the same thing. Drugs are important here. They’re a problem in this county, but they’re a problem in every county…But there’s a lot of other problems here than just focusing on drugs. We need to give drugs 100-percent attention, no doubt, but we also have about 15 other problems that need attention also. Every candidate seems to be saying the same thing. Drugs are a problem here. They are, but what about all of the other problems that we have?” Curtis continued, explaining that an “administrative foundation” is needed within the sheriff’s office. “And we need to start caring about each other as a community.”

When asked what is working well within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, and what could benefit from improvement, Curtis said that deputies are “on top” of the drug problem. “I think they’re taking the trash out. I think they are maintaining. I think the deputies are probably doing the best they can with the tools that they’re given right now,” the sheriff’s candidate explained. “When (retiring Sheriff) Chris (Clinton) came in, he started the CLEA. He kind of got community policing going. He went after the drugs. But we never really moved forward from that. If we keep electing the same mentality we’ll be right back here in four years because we have to work on everything. We have to work on community policing. We have to work on investigations.”

Curtis stated that if elected, she plans to build upon the Citizen Law Enforcement Academy (CLEA) program, additionally implementing a student police academy for 5th and 6th-grade students if the funding is available. More so, the sheriff’s contender listed better communication between the sheriff’s office and Towns County 911 dispatch as an area in need of improvement, as well as advanced training for emergency dispatchers.

FYN asked Curtis, who ran as an Independent sheriff’s candidate due to her residency status in 2016, her current thoughts on accepting a controversial endorsement from the Victory Fund four years prior. The Victory Fund strives to elect openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender candidates to political offices throughout America. Curtis called the endorsement the nail in her 2016 campaign coffin, adding that she is not a gay activist as accused by the then-GOP county chairman. “I would definitely want to move the agency into tomorrow,” Curtis said, however. “I don’t know if I would quite use the word progressive, but we have to move it forward.” In a region that undeniably leans toward conservatism, the sheriff’s contestant claimed that she faced harassment during the 2016 election cycle due to her orientation.

Presumingly referencing fellow candidate Daren Osborn, who has publicly vowed to serve as a “working sheriff” if elected, Curtis stated that the community deserves more.

“It’s not throwing on a gold badge and riding around in a patrol car. That’s not what being sheriff means to me. And I know this is probably going to upset people, but any monkey can be a working sheriff. Any monkey can jump off the road and say we’re going to work on drugs. But we’ve got so many other problems there,” Curtis said. “A working sheriff is great, but we need better than a working sheriff. We need an everything sheriff. We need to be good at admin, community policing, investigations, and we need to get out from behind the desk. We need to be in good physical condition. If my deputies are going to get out there and run a mile, by God, I need to run a mile too.”

Curtis said that her 11 years serving with Altamonte Police Department provided her with the training and experience to take office as Towns County’s next sheriff, describing the Florida agency as “very busy with high crime and high pressure.”

“As far as being a candidate for sheriff, does it make me a better cop? Not necessarily,” Curtis said. “Does it make me better able to handle a crisis? Absolutely because I’ve been in it.”

The sheriff’s candidate listed volunteer work with the local Lions Club, VFW, and the Lake Chatuge clean-up project as community service endeavors, encouraging other candidates to likewise “show what they’ve done to make the county better.”

Curtis resides in Hiawassee with partner, Debbie. The recently-wedded couple relocated to the area in 2010, becoming full-time residents in 2014.

Related Archive:

Curtis enters Towns County sheriff’s race

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Interview with Osborn, candidate for Towns County’s next sheriff

Election, News
Daren Bear Osborn

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN interviewed Towns County sheriff’s candidate Daren “Bear” Osborn last week, peering into the contender’s plans if elected to office in 2020. Osborn was the first challenger to enter the sheriff’s race, a month prior to Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton’s retraction to seek a fourth term. Osborn released a lengthy list of goals and objectives Oct. 16, five days after his candidacy announcement. The sheriff’s candidate has undoubtedly put into action his promise to become “a working sheriff,” regularly attending political engagements and volunteering at community events with wife, Missy, long before his campaign officially launched. Osborn had since taken to visiting Towns County constituents in a door-to-door approach, seeking future votes of confidence.

FYN opened the interview by reviewing Osborn’s qualifications, along with what sets the contender apart from the two candidates who have since entered the race. The 33-year career law enforcement officer recalled his years of serving as police chief of Hiawassee Police Department, police chief of Baldwin, GA, and time spent within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “I’m a lifelong resident of Towns County. My family has always been here. I love these mountains and the people,” Osborn said. “Experience counts. I’ve worked all levels of crimes, on scene, from murders to thefts to misdemeanors.” Osborn stated that he had completed each of the three tiers of Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) training, including law enforcement supervision and management.
When asked what Osborn believes is working well within the present-day sheriff’s office, and what could benefit from improvement, Osborn touched upon several subjects. “There’s a strong deputy effort to stop drugs, but that ends after the arrests,” Osborn explained. “Investigations should be continued, leading to high-level dealers rather than ending with small-time users.” The sheriff’s contestant stated that if elected, a drug task force will be formulated, with an “in-house” narcotic agent brought on board. Osborn cited drugs as the most pressing issue that he plans to tackle. When asked which commonly abused drug poses the highest risk to the community – methamphetamine or opioids – Osborn quickly responded, “both,” adding that marijuana is equally destructive. “I classify all drugs in the same category. Marijuana is a gateway drug, and all drugs lead to distribution. It starts with marijuana. These vaping cartridges, for example, some contain 98-percent THC. It’s killing these kids, and it’s all marijuana-related. Once they get on something, they can’t get off, and people start ‘going big’ with drugs.” Osborn included that drug use often translates to an uptick in property crimes.
The Union County Sheriff’s Office investigator elaborated that he intends to initiate a drug intervention program similar to that of Rock Bottom Recovery and Support in Clay County, NC. Rock Bottom Recovery visits inmates incarcerated on drug-related charges. “For lack a better term, Rock Bottom witnesses to the inmates,” Osborn said. “They’re educated on what drugs can do, and taught that there’s a better way of life.” Osborn confided that he would seek advisement from those who have battled an addiction to address the prevalent problem adequately.
Moreover, Osborn stated that additional patrol deputies are justified in Towns County, an issue that Sheriff Clinton publicly raised following his retirement rescript. Towns County Sheriff’s Office currently employs two patrol deputies per shift, assigned to eastern and western zones. Osborn confided that he is confident that he can operate within a budget set forth by the commissioner’s office. The candidate reiterated the importance of deputy training, adding that while the State of Georgia requires 20 hours of instruction annually, as sheriff, Osborn intends to aim for a minimum of 40 hours of advanced training within the department.
FYN dug into Osborn’s constitutional position, precisely his views on the 2nd and 4th Amendments. Osborn established that he is “definitely pro-gun” and compliant toward the 4th Amendment – the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures. “People will be safe in their homes,” Osborn responded. “All procedures will be played according to law, done right, and if they aren’t breaking the law, there won’t be any problem.”
The interview concluded with FYN questioning whether Osborn had received political backlash on his transition from running on the 2012 Democratic Party’s ticket to that of the Republican Party’s ballot in 2020. Osborn claimed that inquiries have been minimal. “I changed Parties because of my moral stance, and people seem to understand that,” Osborn divulged. “I’ve always been a conservative, and the views of the current Democratic Party are at odds with my beliefs.” The candidate went on to describe himself as a “Zell Miller” policy proponent. Osborn currently serves the Towns County Republican Party as the delegate chairman of the Macedonia district.
Osborn, a lieutenant deputy with Union County Sheriff’s Office, resides in the Bugscuffle community of Hiawassee with his wife, Missy, of 29 years. Osborn is the father of two grown children, Kayla and Tyler,  and a member of Macedonia Baptist Church.
FYN has scheduled a post-holiday interview with Towns County sheriff’s candidate Linda J. Curtis, who entered the race last Thursday. Candidate Kenneth Henderson declined an interview with FYN, offering a future press release, prior to qualification in early March.

Curtis enters Towns County sheriff’s race

News
Linda Curtis - Towns County

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Linda J. Curtis, an Independent candidate in the 2016 Towns County sheriff’s election, has officially announced intent to run for Office of the Sheriff in 2020. Curtis announced the decision on her Facebook page on the morning of Thursday, Dec. 19.

“I would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas,” Curtis wrote. “Also I want to send out a special thanks for your loyalty, dedication, and support in my decision to run for sheriff in the upcoming election. For the protection of your privacy and mine, I will only be using minimal Facebook time for my campaign. Again, thank you for your support. It has touched my heart, really.”

Curtis, a former law enforcement officer, joins Daren “Bear” Osborn and Kenneth “Ode” Henderson in the 2020 Towns County sheriff’s race.

 

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Sheriff Clinton talks retirement: “Politics are a strange beast”

News
Sheriff Chris Clinton Towns County GA

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Days after announcing a decision to no longer seek re-election, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton shared his plans beyond law enforcement on a radio broadcast, Monday, Nov. 25.

Sheriff Clinton announced intent to seek a fourth term as the county’s chief officer on Sept. 19, before the Towns County Republican Party, later retracting the bid via a social media post issued Friday, Nov. 22.

Clinton stated on live radio that it’s “time to move ahead and move forward,” adding that he has never been “much of a politician,” and looks forward to spending time with family post-retirement. Clinton revealed that he plans to share stories – along with a possible screenplay – based on the life of his late grandfather, and intends to release a second album of original songs.

Clinton listed his proudest achievements as acquired state accreditation by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, the success of the annual Empty Stocking Fund, community support for Georgia Sheriffs’ Youth Homes, and the CLEA program as highlights of his 12-year career. The sheriff included that he is proud to have restored the “public trust lost in 2007” which led to Clinton taking office through a necessary special election, adding that crime statistics in Towns County have declined in the years that followed.

When asked regrets, Clinton said that the time spent away from his family rated high, and on a professional level, that better pay for officers, and an increase in the number of deputies is needed in the county.

Clinton signed off by stating that he intends to make good use of his final year in office. “We don’t care about politics anymore so be careful,” Clinton warned with a laugh, adding on a later broadcast that he intends to weigh-in on the upcoming election as the season advances. “I know what’s under the hood with these folks…,” Clinton said, predicting additional candidates may enter the race. “Politics are a strange beast.”

Archived articles on the subjects mentioned above can be found by clicking on the highlighted links.

Additional archives related to Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton are available here.

Follow FYN for current coverage as the 2020 election cycle continues.

 

 

 

 

Sheriff’s wife publicly names challenging candidate as rumor source

News

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Words can lead to dire consequences, and that may prove to be the case for Crystal Clinton, wife of Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton. In response to a social media post dated Oct. 20, Ms. Clinton fired online allegations at 2020 sheriff’s challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn, accusing the candidate of starting a pervasive rumor that Sheriff Clinton sought treatment for drug addiction. Ms. Clinton publicly claimed that she learned the source of the widespread rumor through an estranged relative who supervises Osborn’s law enforcement division in a neighboring county.

FetchYourNews (FYN) met with Osborn and his supervisor Nov. 1, both of whom adamantly denied Ms. Clinton’s allegations. “I did not start the rumor,” Osborn asserted. Osborn’s supervisor explained that she, like many in the community, heard talk of the sheriff’s alleged stint at a rehabilitation facility long before the topic was broached by Osborn, and attempted to learn firsthand whether the hearsay held weight through the Clinton clan.

FYN followed a similar course of action in late February, offering Sheriff Clinton an opportunity to address the rampant rumor of addiction after inquiries on his whereabouts poured into FYN from dozens of concerned citizens. Sheriff Clinton ceased communication with FYN at that time.

Crystal Clinton

A controversial screenshot posted to the Facebook group, “Make Towns County Great Again, vote out Chris Clinton.”

The sheriff’s spouse continued on in reference to Towns County’s “safety officer,” Emergency Management Agency-Homeland Security Director Brandon Walls, publicly alleging that the appointed official is a “convicted felon” and insinuating that Walls should not be trusted to hold the county position. “The only statement I will make at this time is that her accusation is false,” Walls said.

Developments are expected as a result of what the parties involved consider defamation.

Ms. Clinton did not respond to FYN’s request for comment, issued via email through Sheriff Clinton, prior to publication.

 

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Osborn releases platform as Towns County sheriff’s race begins

News, Politics
Towns County Sheriff Election

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Daren “Bear” Osborn, a challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race, took to social media Oct. 16, sharing his logic for seeking office in the 2020 election. Osborn listed multiple goals and objectives, including advanced training within the law enforcement agency, the importance of cooperation between the sheriff’s office and local emergency departments, school safety improvements, and developing a community-oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse.

“Towns County deserves a working sheriff, one who will actively serve the community in uniform, and I hope to fulfill that position,” Osborn told FYN. The Republican candidate added that he intends to be a “visible” sheriff, and plans to continue his involvement in the community if elected.

While Osborn did not mention incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton, the sheriff’s candidate expressed platform-related concerns in the past. Osborn gained publicity earlier this year in connection to a highly-controversial fatal accident that many, including Osborn, believe could have been prevented by the Towns County Sheriff’s Office through proper training.

Daren Bear Osborn

Daren “Bear” Osborn

FYN later reported that Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputies declined participation in two training seminars held within the county: ARIDE training – an acronym for Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement – which was offered in Hiawassee, and school security training held in Young Harris. Sheriff Clinton was extended an invitation to speak at the security event, hosted by Habersham County Sheriff’s Office, yet he did not make an appearance at the state course. Osborn previously labeled the “missed opportunities” as such.

Furthermore, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton drew negative publicity in 2018, following what many in the community considered a botched Towns County Schools active shooter drill. Dozens of first responders from Hiawassee Police Department, Towns County Fire and Rescue, Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Emergency Management Agency expressed disapproval – based on exclusion from participation in the campus drill – describing Clinton’s approach as a habitual, “lone ranger” tactic. “This is not the way training should be done,” Osborn remarked last year on social media. “You have to work together as a team or the mission will not be accomplished.” Towns County first responders, including department heads, continue to note a general lack of communication and poor cooperation from Sheriff Clinton with local emergency agencies, an issue that Osborn promised to remedy if elected.

Osborn listed the following goals and objectives as his campaign platform:

– Be a full-time “Working Sheriff” in a Class A uniform.
– Drive a marked patrol vehicle to be highly visible to the public.
– Develop a community oriented anti-drug coalition for people suffering from substance abuse. Good people can get addicted. We want to save these people.
– Establish a strong relationship with our Homeowner Associations, encouraging neighborhood watch programs. Provide security check lists for homeowners and security checks.
– Re-establish strong working relationships with all surrounding law enforcement agencies, as well as the fire department, EMS, and 911 center.
– Establish regularly scheduled training with outside law enforcement agencies and public safety, such as SWAT training, active shooter, and felony warrant service.
– Provide additional training for all deputies for job specific assignments, patrol investigations, courthouse, and school resource officers.
– Implement a minimum annual training level which exceeds the current Georgia mandated training of 20 hours per year.
– Deputies will receive training from POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training) certified instructors, NOT online webinars!
– Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for all deputies – to help those suffering from mental health issues which law enforcement commonly encounters.
– Host regional law enforcement training for all agencies.
– Work with school officials to ensure the safety of our children and staff, as well as visitors to our schools.
– Work with commissioner to establish and fund an animal control deputy.

A second challenger, Kenneth “Ode” Henderson, entered the Towns County sheriff’s race Oct. 15.

Article archives can be found by clicking the highlighted links above.

 

Bipartisan support apparent as Osborn launches sheriff’s campaign

Opinion
Osborn vs Clinton

EDITORIAL – Daren “Bear” Osborn officially launched his campaign Oct. 11, challenging Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton in the 2020 sheriff’s election, and immediate support for the opposition candidate is proving widespread. The social media response to the veteran law enforcement officer’s announcement has revealed an outpouring of mixed approval from known Republican and Democratic constituents.

Daren Bear Osborn

Daren “Bear” Osborn

Over the weekend, several hundred supporters from both sides of the political aisle favorably reacted, commented, and eagerly shared the news of Osborn’s entry into the now-contested election through social media. Remarks ranging from simple “congratulations” to overt endorsements calling for a change in leadership have surfaced in response to the publicized announcement. When asked by FYN about the outreach of bipartisan support, Osborn said that he devoted himself to a “person to person” approach prior to Friday’s formal declaration of candidacy. “You get more honest results that way,” Osborn confided.

Osborn, who challenged Clinton via the Democratic ticket in the 2012 general election, intends to campaign and run as a Republican candidate in the May 2020 primary. Osborn explained that while he has always identified as a conservative, the views of the present-day Democratic Party have shifted significantly from his moral stance, prompting his political affiliation transition.  The sheriff’s candidate was chosen as a Towns County Republican Party district delegate for the Macedonia precinct in March 2019.

Osborn’s platform, in part, includes plans to serve Towns County as a working sheriff. “Our community deserves a working sheriff that is dedicated, fair, and will ensure quality law enforcement for Towns County citizens and visitors alike,” Osborn stated on Friday.

Osborn – a Towns County native who has served in law enforcement for 33 years – has been employed as a sheriff’s deputy and criminal investigator in neighboring Union County since 2013.

Osborn is the sole challenger in the Towns County sheriff’s race at this time. According to the Towns County Board of Elections, the earliest date to qualify for candidacy is March 2, 2020.

Related Archive:

Clinton receives unfavorable response to campaign announcement

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Young Harris College police chief joins sheriff’s race

News
Ken Henderson - sheriff's candidate

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Kenneth “Ode” Henderson has officially announced intent to run on the Republican ticket in the 2020 Towns County sheriff’s election.

“I will be running in the Republican primary,” Henderson stated on social media. “I have over 35 years in law enforcement and currently serve as the chief at Young Harris College and serve as a police officer for the city of McCayesville, GA. I have also worked for Towns County Sheriff’s Office, under previous administration, and Union County Sheriff’s Office at various times throughout my career. I look forward to sharing more about my qualifications with you in the future as I work to earn your support.”

Henderson joins challenger Daren “Bear” Osborn in the race against incumbent Sheriff Chris Clinton.

Image released by candidate

 

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